My husband is not the friendliest or most talkative man. However, he found himself doing a little impromptu marriage counseling the other day. He went in for a haircut and the young barber apparently needed to talk to someone and he chose my husband.
He told my husband he was 27 and has been married 2 years with an 11-month old baby. He said he thought about leaving all the time. He said they argued constantly.
That day he was in particular trouble. It was his wife’s birthday and he hadn’t planned to do anything for her.
Michael told him bunches of things not necessarily in this order . He told him he needed to stop trying to change her. He told him he was just extending the fight by not backing down. He told him at the very least to apologize that she was feeling upset if he didn’t honestly think he had done anything wrong. He told him that especially after just having a baby his wife just wanted to feel special and that he needed to make an effort to do that. He told him it didn’t have to be big or expensive – just make some effort, like take her lunch or dinner that day. (He told him how for Christmas he surprised me by burning me a CD and putting on the MP3 player all my favorite Michael Jackson hits. Not expensive but I really appreciated the effort.)
My take on the story: Several things going on here. A lot of this is about the baby. Having a baby changes your relationship and it changes your interaction with your spouse. He just hadn’t fully adapted to being a daddy and a husband. It’s a lot of responsibility.
Along with that it’s immaturity. I told Michael this sounds like us 12 years ago. We used to bicker all the time. We fought tooth and nails and nobody was giving in. We really have mellowed in the last 7 or so years.
But that took YEARS of learning to work out our problems and not be so proud. It also took Michael learning how to explain to me what he was really upset about and not just express it as anger. (Don’t get me wrong: We still fight, but it’s much better than it used to be.)
Michael’s favorite comedian Louis C.K. has the routine about leaving. He says you think you can’t leave when you’re married but then you have kids and you know you really can’t leave!
I was proud of Michael giving this young man some good advice from his experiences and not just clamming up. I guess we’ll find out in another month how things are going when Michael goes in for a trim.
Are you willing to offer advice to other couples? Friends? Strangers? What advice would you have given this young man about his marriage?